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« Jon Husband, Guest Post: The New Realities of Engagement – Stories That Drive Action Planning and Implementation | Main | Guest Post by Michael Hoffman: Viral Video for Nonprofits - A Rethinking »

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Matt

I just found this blog and I'm pumped. Thanks for all the work you do in contributing to the non-profit community!

Bread

Hi Joe -
Thanks for this great post. As a grassroots organizer in California, I face a few challenges when setting up events or meet ups:
1) Finding a convenient location. In a large urban area like Los Angeles, people usually stay in their immediate neighborhood. I live in Pasadena - I hesitate to venture to the Westside or Santa Monica. It's only 30 minutes away without traffic, but I could sit in traffic for up to 2 hours during rush hour. For our volunteers, I try to keep events local - inviting people to set up coffee talks at their homes, or a local hub for gathering.

2) Events do not always build lasting relationships. Many people will attend an event once, but they won't make a long-term commitment to the cause. How do I follow-up as an organizer, or design the event in a way that compels people to make an ongoing commitment to the issue at hand? How can we use technology as a tool for connecting people after an event and continuing momentum?

3) Preaching to the Choir. Many events are attended by the same folks - the committed people, the people who are always concerned about social justice. How do we expand the appeal of events to new audiences who may be interested in our work?

How useful are these tools at generating publicity about new events? How does an organization use these events modules to reach new audiences? Just a few thoughts...

Joe Solomon

Thanks for sharing your thoughts & contributing to the conversation! You raise some challenges I also face – as well as challenges I've seen other organizers try to deal with.

Around finding great locations for disperse communities, that seems to a real tough one. I recently learned that some organizers for the Chicago Net Tuesday move their event locations around Chicago each month to encourage geographically-diverse communities to partcipate.

The LA Net Tuesday community recently took a different approach by giving birth to an east side and a west side Net Tuesday to accommodate both parts of the community.

Encouraging local events – via coffee shops, home-gatherings, etc. seems wise – and I imagine inspires more intimate, smaller conversations. I'd be interested if you encourage the local events to gather at larger events or cross-pollinate in other ways.

“Events do not always build lasting relationships. Many people will attend an event once, but they won't make a long-term commitment to the cause. How do I follow-up as an organizer, or design the event in a way that compels people to make an ongoing commitment to the issue at hand?”

I think it's natural that events foster different kinds of relationships – inspiring some to create a long-term commitment – as well as those who may only want to attend once. I think the question is more, How do you cultivate an array of different relationships, whose diverse combination of time, skills, and dedication can further your cause? You may find some useful resources among community engagement ladders and volunteer management theory.

“How can we use technology as a tool for connecting people after an event and continuing momentum?”

There are an array of tools that can foster conversations before and after events (blogs, wikis, newsletters, micro-blogging, social networks, voting portals, forums, chat, etc.). Each can be deployed and leveraged for different purposes. You may help to discover your own approach to these tools by determining your desired outcome and how connecting people fits into that – and then selecting & mapping the tools onto that plan.

“Preaching to the Choir. Many events are attended by the same folks - the committed people, the people who are always concerned about social justice. How do we expand the appeal of events to new audiences who may be interested in our work?”

I've heard it said that preaching to the choir helps create a more beautiful symphony, which in turn inspires more to get involved and join the movement. Successfully empowering your social justice champions to help their circle of friends & family rise up is certainly something to celebrate!

I'm with you, though, that much potential lies in inspiring more folks to get involved & growing your core community. To grow naturally, engaging your current audience's circle of contacts may turn out to be key. How can you invite your network to engage their network, and one-by-one, bridge the degrees of separation in your community? Certain social tools & event listing services can also help – as well as collaborating with other communities. What approaches to growing & expanding your community have worked for you?

...Wow, you raised some great questions! :) Would be awesome to see you continue this convo here and expand on your BreadBlogs blog. Looking forward to learning more about your community organizing experience!

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